Brutti ma Buoni: Ugly But Good Cookies

 

The holidays are over…finally.

I know, I know…it’s a beautiful time to spend with family and friends (and it really is great that way) but a lot happened this year to make it seem longer than usual (an ice storm and a major power outage will do that).  But, hopefully, you all had some time to relax and enjoy some quiet time (an ice storm and major power outage will do that too).


I find that the older I get, it becomes increasing difficult to be everything to everyone during the holidays (maybe some therapy sessions might have been a better gift than the cookbook I got).  My wish to all of you is that you were able to stop the craziness and enjoy the moment – even if it was just to gaze in amazement as the ice covered trees glistened!


I know it may sound weird to all of you (or maybe not), but I find much of my quiet time in the kitchen when everyone else is asleep.  The quiet of the house makes me so happy and lets me reflect on all of the good times that have taken place in my kitchen.  If the connection between food and happy times seems foreign to you, then maybe you may think I’m crazy (like my husband does!). But, if you get the connection, you will truly understand where I am coming from.


On January 1st, I woke up before anyone else and drank my coffee at my island as I watched two tiny birds fluttering about outside, wondering how they keep their little bodies warm in this frigid weather.  I glanced over at my cookbooks and I noticed a notebook that I brought back from a trip to Tuscany almost 10 years ago.  I remembered how much I fell in love with that part of the world (probably because it was my first trip to Europe)…I loved it so much that I had actually convinced myself that I should probably stay there.  How hard could it be to make a living there, right?
Well, apparently, it’s pretty hard (I’ll explain later). 
The place we stayed was a villa owned by Umberto Menghi who is a well known restaurateur in B.C.  I had read about his villa when I was in university and had dreamed of visiting his place for years.  On my 40th birthday, my husband and I went and it was spectacular.


Every morning at 9am, Marianna would ring the bell and we would put on our aprons and head to this kitchen (which opened up to the garden where all of her produce came from).  We would cook things like boar and stuffed lamb, we would make risotto and homemade pastas, we learned to make lemoncello from scratch and a multitude of other things.  Marianna, the owner’s sister-in-law, would finish our food (which we would eat as part of our dinner), and we would head off for an adventure of some sort (always involving food).
At night, we would come back to the villa and sit (under the stars most nights) and enjoy the fruits of our labour.
It was honestly the best food I have ever eaten…simple, rustic and handmade with love and attention.
It doesn’t get better than that!  I just wish I had this blog back then…I would have loved to share that with all of you.  But, I promise, I will make some of the things we learned and post them for you.  Because my background is Italian, I would sneak into the kitchen after our classes were done for the day and ask a ton of questions.  I think Marianna loved to have someone who loved food as mush as she did.  One day, we were talking about homemade cookies and I asked if she had a recipe for Brutti Ma Buoni (I had seen a recipe for them on Martha Stewart’s website, but I wasn’t sure how authentic it was).
She was so happy that she wrote out her recipe…of course, straight from her head!!
As you can see, it’s so simple.  It says combine all of the ingredients, but I like to do it in order (with more direction…I will explain it better).
And the measurements are in weight…very European.  Actually, weighing baking ingredients is always more exact but I will translate it into dry measures for you.
And, here is the notebook…so many recipes and so many memories!
Ingredients:
100 g butter (1/2 c minus 1 tbsp)
100 g sugar (1/2 c minus 1 tbsp)
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
220 g flour (or about 1 1/4 c plus 1 tbsp)
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
60 g walnuts (about heaping 1/3 c walnut halves), ground roughly*
80 g dates (about 14 regular dates…not the big ones…about 3/4c), chopped
*NOTE:  The walnuts should be roughly chopped (chop it by hand with a knife); it shouldn’t be as fine as almond meal.
1.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add egg and milk and mix again.
2.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and walnuts; add to the wet mixture and combine.
3.  Add the dates and mix again.
4.  The dough should look like this…quite thick; take a tablespoon and drop rounded measures of the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
5.  You can leave them like this…
6.  Or you can indent them with a fork to make them look less “bruti”!!
7.  Cool on a rack and they will last for a week or so.

8. They are a mix between an amaretti cookie and shortbread…great dunkers for coffee!!
On a sad note, the cooking school closed and I found out that running a profitable cooking school in Tuscany is hard to do.  I spoke with a travel agent and she told me that the building still belongs to the Menghi family (Delia was his late mother) and may still rent rooms but the cooking school no longer exists.  It was so disheartening to find out that others wouldn’t be able to enjoy the same epic journey I took…it was truly spectacular!!
3 Comments
  • Vince Delisi, Tina Cesaroni, Jenn Hayhoe, Anna Cooper
    April 13, 2014

    Comments

    vince01/05/2014 5:37pm
    Oh, my. This is so inspirational. We need a school like this in the GTA. You could so start one and I would be your constant student. I got a pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas and the pasta I tried to make was a disaster. Guys like me need help. HELP!
    Reply
    suzie01/06/2014 8:33am
    I think you are right – a school like this in the GTA would be spectacular! Something that inspires people to cook…I find that most of the cooking school here are just a form of entertainment (like going to a movie!). Hmmm….makes my creative juices flow!
    And, as for the pasta, it’s not as easy as it looks. Our grandmothers knew best…practice makes perfect!!
    Reply
    Tina Cesaronilink01/06/2014 6:47am
    HAPPY NEW YEAR SUZI…HOW ABOUT YOU GET PAUL TO BUY THE BUILDING…YOU RESTART THE SCHOOL AND I’LL COME OVER TO REFRESH THE GARDEN EVERY SPRING?
    ; )
    Reply
    suzie01/06/2014 8:36am
    Happy New Year to you too!!
    Running a cooking school here, using local ingredients is doable but would be difficult at times (as I look outside at the snow and ice!).
    But doing in Tuscany would be a pleasure!!
    Your offer sounds spectacular! And when you come to refresh the garden, we will all sit around a big table and eat to our hearts content!!
    Reply
    Jenn01/06/2014 8:05am
    After reading your post, I felt like a little bird sitting outside the window in Tuscany watching you cook with such love and passion. Amazing how our minds work. 😉
    Your excitement and passion in the kitchen is truly infectious.
    Muah Bella!! xo
    Reply
    suzie01/06/2014 8:37am
    You are too sweet!
    Excitement about food IS infectious…no matter where or who it comes from!
    Reply
    Anna01/06/2014 12:49pm
    Hi Suzie, just wanted to take a moment to let you know how much I enjoy reading about you food adventures. So sad that this cooking school closed, perhaps it was a few years ahead of its time. Keep the great recipes coming, I’ve tried several of your recipes and loved them!

  • Elicia P
    March 13, 2018

    Trying these cookies out this morning 🙂 They look and smell amazing!!
    Nice read!! Looking forward to having an experience like yours one day 🙂

    • Suzie Durigon
      March 13, 2018

      Yayyy!!! I hope you like them (and, yes, I’m sure your kitchen smells amazing!!). I miss that beautiful smile of yours…hope you’re good!!

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